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UK 2021 number plate changes and GB identifier – what’s happening?

UK number plate changes 2021

What’s changed with UK number plates?

UK number plate regulations have been altered for 2021, with some changes coming into effect from September. Here's what's changed:

Number plate construction and digits

From September 2021, the standard of number plates was changed from BS145d to BS145e. This affects a couple of things when you get new plates made.

First, the plates now need to be made from a stronger material that's better able to withstand more wear and tear – in particular the heat of direct sun on a summer's day and freezing winter temperatures, as well as rain, which combine to cause fading.

BS145e also affects the digits on the plates. The two-tone black and grey used to create a 3D-type effect on older plates is no longer legal on new plates – all of the digits must now be completely black. This makes it easier for automatic number plate recognition cameras to read them.

The raised digits on some plates, which create a real 3D or 4D  effect, are still legal as long as the digits are all-black.

If the vehicle was purchased from a business, its name and postcode will need to be shown at the bottom centre of the plate (as shown below), and 'BS145e' and the plate manufacturer should be displayed bottom right.

number plate dealer

What else has changed with number plates in 2021?

Quite a few things!

EVs get green flashes

First off, electric vehicles now have a green flash on the left side of the plate, where a country flag usually goes – in fact the flash can be incorporated into the flag. These green flashes are not permitted on petrol or diesel cars.

Vintage number plates

The black-backed, silver-digit arrangement is still legal but instead of being allowed on vehicles once they get to the age of 40 years, they can now be used only on those that were first registered before 1980.


The EU flag cannot be displayed on new plates. Just the English, Welsh, Scottish or Union flags. Existing plates are unaffected, so if yours still has the EU flag you don't need to get new plates made.

GB identifier UK

What about driving abroad with a ‘GB’ number plate or sticker?

You now have to use a 'UK' identifier when driving your car outside of the UK (but not in Ireland), because the government has decided to ditch the GB identifier after 111 years. 

If you have a GB sticker on your car or the GB initials on your number plate you'll need to get a UK sticker.

Halfords told the BBC that some countries may refuse entry if your car is not displaying the correct identifier.